5 years 9 months ago #28333 by Joe Fitzpatrick
GPX or TCX? was created by Joe Fitzpatrick
I have been trying to get my head around this - but there is a lot of conflicting information out there

My summary is that that it depends on 3 things:
1) what info was put into the file in the first place
2) how much info is in the GPX or TCX file
3) what your device can do with that info

Below is my interpretation of what I have found. I would welcome corrections or clarifications.

(The following table may not format correctly on all devices)
WaypointsA waypoint is any single specific location, typically identified by latitude and longitude.
RoutesA route is a sequence of waypoints (eg JoeDalys, Glencullen, ViewingPoint, Rathfarnham).
A route may also contain "cues" ie. directions to be taken at each waypoint (and possibly in between).
CuesheetsA set of "cues”, essentially turn by turn directions.
TracksA track is a more detailed recording of the path/road travelled. It consists of trackpoints recorded at short increments along the path. (so, while a route may have tens or hundreds of waypoints - a track could have thousands of trackpoints).
GPX fileGPX, or GPS Exchange Format, is a common an (xml) data format which can describe waypoints, tracks, and routes.
The minimum properties for a GPX file are latitude and longitude for every single point. All other elements are optional (eg. elevation, time, and other information)
TCX fileTCX or Training Center XML format is also an xml data format, but was created by Garmin. It is very similar to GPX but treats a track as an Activity rather than simply a series of GPS points. So, as well as location, each track point can store additional data such as heart rate, cadence, calories, lap times. etc.
NavigationThe Garmins that have maps provide two methods of navigation. These work independently from each other (you can use one or the other or both).
1) One is more basic. This might be called "track following". All the Garmins support this method.
2)The other is "turn guidance" (Garmin's term). This is the "big white arrows". For this mode, the unit itself calculates a second "path" to follow by walking the track and picking the roads the track appears to be following. This process uses the map installed on the device .
Im not clear which Garmins support this

There are 2 types of GPX file
GPX routeTypically contain a sequence of waypoints and may contain cuesheet entries. It relies on the GPS device to calculate a path between each of the waypoints. (Edge 2xx and 5xx cannot do this). Routes are best suited for reaching a specific destination, or set of destinations, when the path being taken is not important. For weekend spins, sportives, and audax rides, GPX route files are of little value.
GPX trackUseful for any GPS unit**. Contains no cuesheet entries, only track information (also known as breadcrumb trail).
Allegely will provide turn by turn directions (true navigation) on the Edge 705/800/810/1000/Touring, but will not have any custom cues. Works great for Mio Cyclo. Your GPS will follow this track and is the next most common format we recommend for units that cannot use a TCX Course file.

There are 2 types of TCX file
TCX HistoryUseful for uploading your activity to another service, keeping records on your own computer etc.
We can ignore this.
TCX asserts that TCX Course files are the best format for turn by turn directions on Edge 500, 510.
TCX files can contain extra information called "course points". "Course points" are icons with short labels. They are used to provide "primitive" turn instructions for Garmins that don't have maps (like the 500/510).
The Garmins with maps can use "course points" too but those provide better turn instructions (the big white arrows). "Course points" still can be useful as a backup to the "Turn Guidance" or to provide information about locations (like rest stops) that the Turn Guidance knows nothing about.
RideWithGPS say that TCX provide true turn by turn navigation on Edge 800, 810, 1000 & Touring, including custom cue entries.
There is a downside to a TCX file for navigation if you use Virtual Partner (simple solution - turn off Virtual Partner)

Some more useful info here

In reality:

For a recent event
I downloaded both GPX and TCX files from Strava and looked inside.
The GPX file had latitude, longitude and elevation at each point.
The TCX file had latitude and longitude only.
So, in this case the GPX is better.

For a different event I downloaded both GPX and TCX files from RideWithGPS.
The GPX had latitude, longitude and elevation at each point
The TCX had latitude, longitude, elevation, distance travelled, and some turn direction text.
So, in this case the TCX is better

** RideWithGPS says that the Garmin Edge 520 can only use the TCX Course or FIT Course formats. I don’t believe this is accurate.

All of this may become obsolete with the new FIT fit format. FIT or Flexible and Interoperable Data Transfer is a file format used for GPS tracks and routes. It is used by newer Garmin/Wahoo fitness GPS devices.
The following user(s) said Thank You: Leonard Kaye

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